Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle!

Still catching up . . . 

Morgan turned 9 years old last month and had quite the birthday celebration.  We started talking about her birthday and what she wanted to do for her party a few weeks before her birthday.  She knew right away that she wanted to have a Jungle Book party and go to a movie.  No surprise there, she watches Jungle Book 2 almost everyday and loves Mowgli!  She wanted to have her party right then and was mad when it was time to go to bed and wanted to know what happened to going to the movie.  Hadley made a birthday countdown chain to help her know how many more days until her big day.

She got an early birthday celebration at Grandma and Grandpa’s house the Sunday before her big day!  She loves having everyone sing to her and didn’t complain about getting to do it a few times that week.

She wanted donuts for her classroom birthday treat.  She couldn’t stop smiling when she saw me walk into her classroom.  She helped pass out the napkins and donuts to her classmates.  It was on Spirit Day when the students wear red to show their Tiger Pride. 

Finally the big day!  She woke up very excited to go downstairs and open her presents.  Her big gift from us was an iPad.  We got it hoping she could use it in the classroom and at home to help with school work and modifications.  I keep finding the older kids’ games downloaded on it though.  I still think it’s going to be great but it’s going to take us some time to figure out how to implement it into her homework and school stuff.  She still gets frustrated trying to type on the screen and pushes too many times the same key or backspaces all of the word off of the screen. So far it’s just been a really expensive video player. 

I love these pictures.  This is so Morgan!  I wanted to get some pictures of her and she wanted nothing to do with it.   She sat there with a serious face, determined to not look at the camera, and then after a few minutes,  out of the blue, she started laughing and doing her “King Tut Dance” for the camera.  And of course she was all smiles after that.

I can’t believe how grown up she is -- Nine years old!  Wow!  I know every mom feels like this with their kids, but it’s different with Morgan.  It really does surprise and amaze me every year to think of how quickly she is growing up.  That first year of her life is still so vivid in my memory.  It feels like it just happened.  Not nine years ago.  I was so worried about the future when she was born.  Worried about how it would be to have an older child, a teenager, an adult with Down syndrome.   Worried about all of the unknowns.  I learned that first year to take it one day at a time.  And here we are nine years later and it’s been all good.  I look at these pictures and am overwhelmed with love and pride for that beautiful girl.  So lucky she is mine!

She had a lot of friends and cousins come to help her celebrate her big day.  I was worried about having too many friends at the party but then realized having too many friends is a good problem to have.  She knew they were all there for her and loved greeting each friend as they arrived to her house.  Her friend, Macey (sitting on the left of her), was especially cute with Morgan.  Making sure she was taken care of the whole time.  Macey can’t hear but somehow she and Morgan are able to communicate together perfectly.  All of her friends are so amazing and patient with her.  She loves them and they love her!

They played outside, played games on the trampoline, ate pizza, opened presents and then it was time to sing Happy Birthday and eat cupcakes and ice cream.    

Instead of going out to a movie, we made our basement into a movie theater.  The kids all got “Morgan Money” to buy concessions for the movie.  Then we started the movie.  I had this great idea to rent Jungle Book (the original movie) since Morgan had never seen that one before.  I should’ve known.  She loves repetition and knowing all of the lines in the movie.  The first JB is slow and not a lot of songs.  She kept asking to watch Jungle Book 2 during the movie but I knew I didn’t have time to start and finish a different movie.  The kids were interested in the movie until the last little part and then they started jumping all around, spilling pop all over the carpet, running through the house.  Morgan finally liked the movie when Shanti made her appearance at the very end of the movie.  After the movie ended and the lights were back on, Morgan went and found the DVD cover for Jungle Book 2 and said, “This one, Mom!”  Letting me know that I had really failed with the movie selection.  Luckily she still loves me and managed to have a great birthday celebration! 

In honor of her 9th birthday, 9 things you might not know about Morgan . . .

1.  She loves sharing a room with Hadley.  She doesn’t like to get into her bed before Hadley is going to bed too.  She usually ends up switching beds in the night and climbing up into the top bunkbed to sleep right next to Hadley.

2.  She wakes up super early every morning (5 am) and watch the TV or computer (with the volume as loud as it goes) until everyone else wakes up.  She now has a lock on the outside of her door and no lights in her room so she goes right back to sleep after she wakes up.

3.  She’s nice to Griffin and she loves him.  (Griffin really wanted to tell the reason for #3).

4.  She’s a great reader and speller.  She gets 100% on almost every spelling test.

5.  She loves to ride her bike.  It’s her first vehicle choice for her getaways.  She was getting out of the house almost daily and riding her bike to the school to play on the playground.  We have amazing neighbors who knew to let us know every time they saw her riding her bike unaccompanied.  Gavin finally moved the garage door openers up on the wall, out of her reach, and she’s been stuck home ever since.

6.  She soothes herself by sucking on her finger, especially when she’s tired or at school.  We used this yucky tasting stuff to break the thumb sucking habit when she was in 1st grade and it worked.  Until she found her finger.  I just started the yucky tasting stuff on her finger.  Hopefully it will work.   Her jaw is already too small and the constant sucking doesn’t help things.

7.  Morgan hates to have her hair brushed.  Really, really hates it.  It’s the worst part of our day.  She screams, cries, hits me and calls me all kinds of bad names, usually it’s a boy because nothing’s worse than calling a girl a boy (Jafar, Flynn Ryder, Aladdin, Mean Mother --mom in Tangled).

8.  She started cheerleading this past summer with Elite Angels.  She’ll have her first competition in January.

9.  Her favorite activities are swimming and watching Disney movies.  

Happy 9th Birthday Morgan!  We love you!

Monday, October 24, 2011

No more braces!

The orthodontist predicted Jack would have braces for 18 to 24 months when he got them.  27 months later. . . Jack is officially brace free!  He did a good job at wearing his elastics without many reminders from me and did a good job getting his teeth brushed and braces clean.  He was excited to finally get them off!  They gave him a big bag full of treats -- all of the things he wasn’t supposed to eat with braces.  Weird, but I don’t remember him not eating cornnuts, jolly ranchers, laffy taffy, gum, etc.  He got to go directly from the orthodontist to the dentist to get a cavity filled (his first one since he got his braces) so he can get his permanent retainers on his teeth next week.  He only had a few minutes to enjoy the amazement of how big and smooth his teeth felt before he was talking about how fat and huge his lip felt.

I think the biggest surprise for me was looking at his before pictures.  I can’t get over how much he has grown up these past two years.  He was still such a little kid back in 2009.  What a difference two years makes!

The BEFORE pictures. . . 

And the almost after pictures.  Getting the braces removed.

And the AFTER picture.  It’s a cheesy, forced smile but his regular smile doesn’t show any teeth so I made him give me a big, fake smile.   Love the new brace-free smile!

One down.  Two in braces.  Three to go.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Diversity Means . . .

That’s the theme for this year’s "Reflections for Students".  I’ve never had any of my kids show any interest in participating in the annual Reflections contest at school.  And I’m sure my lack of time or initiative didn’t help the cause either.  So I didn’t pay much attention to the papers that came home from school except for liking the theme this year.  Diversity.  I love anything that points out the positive of differences, acceptance and respect.  I was surprised when Hadley’s piano teacher called to let us know that Hadley had been working on composing a piano piece the last few weeks that she wanted to enter into the Reflection’s contest.  It was only a few months ago that Hadley was struggling in piano (more the practicing then the actual playing).  It was always a battle and it didn’t seem like she was learning the notes and only memorizing the hand positions and if she should skip or step between the notes.  We decided to switch things up this past summer and see if there was a difference.  She started taking piano lessons from a new teacher, who just happened to be her old (but young) 3rd grade teacher.  We witnessed a complete change.  I never had to remind her or ask her to practice the piano.  We were all usually woken up bright and early to Hadley’s piano practicing.   She got new music, songs that she knew and it was fun to play instead of the scales and Bastien books she was playing in her other class.  She now loved piano!  Her teacher moved last month to Naples, Florida (she wanted to ‘enjoy the small things’ or something like that) and her mom took over as her piano teacher and has been just as great for Hadley.

She played the song while her teacher wrote down the notes.
The final piece.

She named the song, “Rainbow After the Storm” and then she had to write a small essay describing how her art entry relates to the theme, “Diversity Means. . .”  This is what she wrote--

I did “The Rainbow After the Storm” because a rainbow has different colors that work together perfectly.  I wanted to do a piano song because in music there are tons of different notes and when you put them all together they create something wonderful!

She also had to include a CD of her playing the music.  That took almost all afternoon to figure out how to get something from the piano into the computer but voice memo on the iphone worked like a charm!  Here’s the recording from when Hadley played and I recorded.  Enjoy.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Girls Trip

I spent the last weekend in September touring around the Northwest with some of my favorite friends.  We were long overdue for a girls trip and an email notification about low airfare rates was enough push to make the trip finally a reality.  I sent out an email in June asking friends and sisters who would have interest in a girls trip.  I loved opening the return emails and being surprised and excited by the words, “I’m in!”.  We ended up with 7 of us on the trip -- my sister,  sis-in-law, freshman roommate, best friend, her sister and childhood friend.   I was nervous how it would work with such a wide variety of friends and not everyone knowing each other, but it was perfect!  

We had 3 full days and wanted to make every day count.  We started the planning and had so much we wanted to do.  Much more than Seattle.  We wanted to go into Canada and visit the San Juan Islands, too.  I asked for suggestions on Trip Advisor and was quickly shut down.  Told we were trying to fit in too much and couldn’t possibly do the 3 locations in only 3 days.  We were up for the challenge!

Day 1:  Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands
We drove 90 minutes from Seattle to catch the ferry over to Friday Harbor.  We lucked out with planning this day first.  It was the warmest day of the week.  Beautiful and sunny.  We relaxed on the ferry for an hour and enjoyed the amazing scenery around us.  It almost felt like I was in Alaska again.

We had about 5 hours on the island and spent the afternoon walking around the harbor, eating lunch and shopping in the cute boutique stores.  Daisie and Sylvia headed out on a whale watching tour and saw lots of beautiful sea life but not a lot of whales. 

The ‘Seal’ sisters!

All of us with the sailboats in the background.  At least that’s what I asked for when I handed the guy my camera.   Just know that there were lots of beautiful sailboats directly behind us.  We took the ferry back and drove 2 hours to Vancouver, BC.

Day 2:  Vancouver, BC
This was my favorite day.  I love everything about Vancouver!  It’s a big city but has a completely different feel than other big cities.  It has a little bit of everything.  Great food and shopping.  Harbor and bridges.  Mountains, rain forest, and parks.  And we always felt safe, even walking around after midnight.  We spent the day biking all around Vancouver.  The bike ride was definitely the highlight of the weekend (and the jumping pictures on the beach)!  I highly recommend the bike tour!

My sister, Heidi, was our designated driver.  She drove us all over Washington and across the border without a complaint.  We spent about 6 hours in the car but it flew by with all of our endless talks.  We figured out that between the 7 girls, we have 31 children which meant we all appreciated being able to have uninterrupted, adult conversation (i.e. plastic surgery horror stories, healthy eating ideas, confessing that we were armed with cabbage while crossing the border).  We did have one small collision with a light pole in a parking lot.  Sorry Cassidy, my niece who gets to drive the damaged car to school now.

We started the  bike tour riding on the path along the seawall and rode into Stanley Park and saw all of the totem poles.

Brockton Point Lighthouse and the beautiful architecture of Vancouver.

We spent a few hours riding around through the rain forest in Stanley Park.  This was my favorite part of the ride.  It was incredible to be inside the rain forest.  The scenery and scent of pine while trying to ride my bike to the top of the hills (unsuccessfully). It was absolutely beautiful!

Beaver Lake

Lions Gate Bridge at Prospect Point in Stanley Park

Our poor tour guide, Dan.  We kept asking him to stop every few minutes so we could take a few pictures.  He had no idea what was in store when he took us to see Third Beach.  We asked him if he would take a few pictures of us jumping together on the beach.  30 minutes later . . . uncontrolled laughter and no picture of the seven of us in the air at the same time.  We tried 5 different times and just couldn’t get the timing right.  Synchronized jumping may not be our strong point but the pictures are my favorite from the trip.  I can’t look at them without laughing.

Jump #1
I love this one!  Rae (far left) is the best one in this jumping picture.  She managed to get her right leg off of the ground!  

Jump #2

Jump #3
Rae proves she can get some air

Jump #4
I love my hyper extended arms in every. single. picture.  From start to finish!  Obviously I was never a cheerleader!

We took the aquabus and bikes over to Granville Island.  We didn’t have a lot of time to shop or look around after all of the jumping and picture taking.  Just enough time to walk through the market and get some lunch.

We rode through ChinaTown and walked through Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese garden.

Rode on the brick and asphalt streets in Gastown and checked out the last functioning steam clock.

And finished the tour with just enough time to walk to Robson Street and shop for souvenirs and yummy Canadian candy bars.

Day 3:  Seattle
We spent our last day back in Seattle.  We started off the morning with a small rear ending accident into a light pole on our way to church.  Church is always so much better out of town.  Not sure if it’s the no kids to worry about or if it’s because we just aren’t as diverse of a group in Utah.  We met a sweet lady at church who let us know over and over that God loves us.  A nice way to start out our day.  We spent the rest of the day at the obvious tourist stop . . . Pike’s Market.

The market is full of beautiful flowers, flying fish, yummy chowder, local talent, unique boutiques, great people watching and . . . the GUM WALL!

Vennesa also got to try out her first vanilla steamer at the original Starbucks location at Pike’s.  

We ended the day with the Underground Tour.  It was cool to see how they built Seattle right on top of the old city after it burned in the early 1900’s.  You can walk around under the sidewalks and streets and see where the old city used to be.

Pioneer Square

We were able to fit in one more thing on our way to the airport.  The Fremont Troll.

Thank you girls for all of the fun memories!  Now it’s time to start planning our next getaway!

Monday, October 3, 2011

St. George Marathon Weekend

I always think that once school starts, I am going to have all of this extra time to finally get caught up on everything that’s on my to-do list . . . painting all of my grandma’s old furniture (so Gavin’s car can finally fit in the garage again),  start and finish digital scrapbooks before Christmas Eve, get caught up on the blog, organize the house, etc.  But it never works out that way.  I’m not sure why but instead of more free time, I end up having even less time.  Can’t believe the kids have been in school for more than a month already and that Halloween is just around the corner.  We’ve been busy with lots of good things and hopefully I will get to catching up on the blog one day soon.  But for now. . .

We spent the weekend in St. George at Nan and Papa’s house.  Gavin trained all summer, waking up bright and early, to run and train for his 7th marathon.  His goal was to finish in less than 4 hours.  Once again, Ryan stayed behind at his friend’s house so he could play in his big football game on Saturday.  They had their first loss of the season but Ryan did have an interception.

We took Zeus on his first road trip.  He rode in his kennel in the back of the car and did great.  Hadley and Nan took the dogs out for a walk on our first morning there.

We spent the first day swimming at Uncle Brendan’s and Aunt Nicole’s cold pool.  Griffin and Kamen were inseparable and had so much fun together.

We went to Pizza Factory the night before the race for some good pre-race Carb loading.

And then Gavin took off with Uncle Richie to sleep in the cabin in Pine Valley

Hadley and Jack had fun making posters the night before the race.  Nan asked Jack what the teenagers say these days when something is cool.   His response?  “Coo”
“You so ‘coo’ aliens would abduct you."

We found a good spot around mile 25-26 to watch and cheer on all of the runners.  It is an emotional experience to watch the runners as they approach the finish line.  Lolly and I both got a little teary-eyed, especially as we watched one man finish the wheelchair division using only one hand to push his wheelchair to the finish line.  And I always get emotional when I finally find Gavin in the crowd and see him so close to the finish line.  Proud of his hard work, determination, endurance and example.  

He made his goal of finishing under 4 hours.  Barely.  3:59!!!  Way to go, Gavin!

His biggest fans!

Gavin and his parents

Gavin with his brother, Brendan, Nicole and Baby Shae

I think this was the only time that Gavin got to rest all day.  A few minutes on the grass with some ice on his knees.  And then he was back to full-time dad status.  

We were spoiled all weekend with Nan’s yummy cooking . . . waffles and sourdough hotcakes, chocolate sheet cake, chocolate chip cookies, pot roast dinner, and lots of yummy snacks.  It was hard to leave all of that goodness.  And the kids even slept this time around.  Except for those early morning wakings when Morgan woke up hours before everyone else to let Zeus out of his kennel and kindly put him into her grandparents’ bedroom.  Barking and all.

And if you’re wondering why anyone would ever want to run a marathon.  Watch this.  It even made me wish I had joints that could handle a marathon.  Very inspiring!